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December 24, 2005

Stormont Inquiary Appears Unlikely

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News About Ireland & The Irish

SB 12/24/05 Stormont Inquiry Appears Unlikely
SB 12/24/05 O'Loan Tight-Lipped On Spy
SB 12/24/05 Donaldson Was Key Man For Sinn Fein In US
SB 12/24/05 Opin: Sabotage, But No-One Wants To Know
SB 12/24/05 Opin; Britain's Stormontgate Shambles
SB 12/24/05 Opin: Democracy Undermined By Securocrats'
SB 12/24/05 The Irishmen Behind UN Reform
SB 12/24/05 Opin: What Was Beyond Politics


Stormont Inquiry Appears Unlikely

25 December 2005  By Paul T Colgan

Calls for a public inquiry into the 'Stormontgate'
affair have fallen on deaf ears in London and Dublin,
because the two governments are intent on making
political progress in the new year and believe an
inquiry would damage the peace process.

Following last week's startling admission by Denis
Donaldson, Sinn Féin's former head of administration
at Stormont, that he had worked as a paid British
informant for 20 years, the SDLP and the two unionist
parties have demanded a full inquiry.

The British and Irish governments believe that an
inquiry would only jeopardise moves towards the
restoration of the power-sharing government in
Belfast. Serious issues surround the investigation by
the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) into an
alleged IRA spy ring that brought down the government
over three years ago.

Donaldson has said there was no such spy ring and that
the PSNI operation was conceived by elements opposed
to the peace process in order to collapse the Stormont
executive. The former senior Sinn Féin official had
been arrested along with two other party workers,
Ciaran Kearney and William Mackessy, in October 2002,
and subsequently charged with collating information
likely to be of use to terrorists.

The case collapsed two weeks ago after the North's
Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charges,
citing "public interest''.

With a report from the Independent Monitoring
Commission (IMC) on IRA activity due next month, the
two governments are keen to generate momentum towards
a deal between Sinn Féin and Ian Paisley's Democratic
Unionist Party.

The IMC is widely expected in government circles to
give the IRA a clean bill of health and confirm that
it has ceased activities since July. It is thought
that a public inquiry into Stormontgate would make
political movement practically impossible.

Hugh Orde, the chief constable of the PSNI, briefed
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Dermot Ahern, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell
and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy about the case on

Orde was confronted by republican protesters on his
arrival at Government Buildings in Dublin.

The PSNI still maintains that a substantial amount of
documents, including a transcript of a telephone
conversation between British prime minister Tony Blair
and US president George Bush, were recovered in the
operation. The vast bulk of documentation was
discovered at Donaldson's west Belfast home. Ahern
called for more information to be made available to
the public, but he said he was not prepared to talk
about what Orde had told him.

The North's Police Ombudsman's office, which looked
into the affair last year, may be called upon to
reinvestigate the case following Donaldson's admission
that he worked for Special Branch. Nuala O'Loan
concluded that the police investigation into the
alleged spy ring had been justified, but that the raid
on Sinn Féin's Stormont offices was heavy-handed.

O'Loan would be obliged to reexamine the events if she
received a complaint accompanied by compelling
evidence of wrongdoing.

Donaldson's public confession of his role is regarded
by many as strong grounds for a fresh inquiry.

Sources close to O'Loan remained tight-lipped about
whether her investigators knew of Donaldson's agent
status when compiling last year's report.

"We saw all the [PSNI] intelligence relating to the
raid on the [Donaldson's] house in west Belfast," a
source said. "On the basis of that, we decided that
the subsequent raid on Stormont had been justified.
Nuala will never say whether we saw intelligence
relating to Donaldson being an agent or not. We just
can't discuss intelligence publicly or we would never
get to look at it again. We've reviewed our
investigation in the past few days, and we still
believe the raid on Stormont was justified."

Republicans have dismissed claims that a second
British agent may have been working for Sinn Féin at

The party said that the claim was designed to cause
panic within republican ranks and create the
implication that the IRA had been operating a spy


O'Loan Tight-Lipped On Spy

25 December 2005  By Paul T Colgan and Colm Heatley

The North's police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has stood by
her report into the so-called 'Stormontgate' affair,
but has refused to say whether or not her
investigators knew that senior Sinn Féin official
Denis Donaldson was a British spy.

O'Loan reported last year that the Police Service of
Northern Ireland (PSNI) was fully justified in raiding
Donaldson's home and offices in 2002 when he was Sinn
Féin's head of administration at Stormont. The
investigation brought down the power-sharing

Donaldson admitted earlier this month to having been a
paid informant for British Intelligence and the PSNI
Special Branch.

A spokesman for O'Loan said the police ombudsman had
revisited the case file in recent days and was
prepared to stand by its findings. He said O'Loan
would not be able to confirm or deny whether she knew
Donaldson was a police agent when she issued her

Larry Zaitschek, the American chef named by the PSNI
as a suspect in the Castlereagh break-in in 2002,
lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman's office
six weeks ago.

Zaitschek, who has always protested his innocence,
told The Sunday Business Post that the complaint
concerned the PSNI's investigation and the use of
"bribery to get information from me, which I simply do
not have''.

"They told me that I could see my son, Pearse, who
lives with my estranged wife, if I gave them
information about Castlereagh," he said. "That is
ridiculous. I simply do not know what went on there
and I had no involvement whatsoever in the Castlereagh

Zaitschek has named a senior Special Branch officer in
his complaint to O'Loan. He called on the ombudsman to
reinvestigate his case.

"If it transpires that O'Loan's office was not aware
of Donaldson's role as an informer, then it is
incumbent upon them to reinvestigate my case," he

"I still cannot travel to the North of Ireland, even
though the PSNI clearly have no evidence against me
and have made me a scapegoat in an investigation which
appears now to be extremely unbelievable."

The withdrawal of the case against Donaldson two weeks
ago has brought the cost of recent investigations into
Stormontgate and the Castlereagh break-in in 2002 to
more than stg£70 million.

This compares to the stg£145 million cost of the
Bloody Sunday inquiry.

The stg£70 million figure does not include the cost of
police hours and the extra detectives used to
investigate the two cases, which the PSNI has claimed
are linked.


Donaldson Was Key Man For Sinn Fein In US

25 December 2005  By Niall O'Dowd

"My name is Denis Donaldson.

"Since the 1980s, I have worked for British

With those words last week, the latest Irish
republican unveiled as an informer dropped the
equivalent of a dirty bomb among Irish-Americans who
had come to know him as a key Sinn Féin representative
in the US.

"I had to sit down when I heard it," said one leading
republican in New York, who, like most people
interviewed, did not want to be named. "I was

Another said he felt like he had been "hit on the head
with a plank''.

The news was true, however, and the grainy image of
Donaldson sitting in a Dublin hotel confessing that he
was a paid informer was soon flashing around the
internet, as well as becoming a hot topic of
discussion wherever activist Irish-Americans were

Some claim to have suspected something all along,
though they were the exceptions.

"Denis could be sent anywhere; he was a diplomat, a
smiler, anxious to engage everyone," said one
republican. "He was the last person you would have

Donaldson first came to the US in 1988 at a time when
the republican movement was undergoing severe strains

In 1986, Republican Sinn Féin had split from the
Provisionals over the issue of taking seats in the

The dispute was mirrored in Irish-America and a
Republican Sinn Féin support group, Friends of Irish
Freedom, was set up with the specific task of bringing
Irish-America over to their view.

It was a dangerous time for Provisional Sinn Féin, as
the loyalty of Irish-America was clearly up for grabs.
Back home, there were stories about threats on the
life of Gerry Adams by former disgruntled comrades.
Feelings everywhere were running high.

Before long, Donaldson was charged with ensuring that
the Provisionals' grip on American support was

He arrived from Belfast with impeccable credentials.
Diminutive and heavy-smoking, he possessed a quick wit
and a disarming manner, which ensured that tensions
rarely boiled over.

He was a native of Short Strand in Belfast, a
republican who had served five years in prison and was
a personal friend of republican icon Bobby Sands.

After his release from prison, he had quickly become
an important player in Sinn Féin.

Donaldson lived in the Bronx on Bainbridge Avenue, and
soon became noted for his love of the nightlife. Often
business was done in bars, with the affable Donaldson
winning someone over to his view over a pint or two,
though no one ever remembers him being drunk.

He travelled extensively throughout the US, holding
meetings in key cities. His message was the same
everywhere he went. Irish Northern Aid (Noraid) -
headed by Martin Galvin - was the only organisation
endorsed by Sinn Féin and the IRA in Ireland.

His meetings came at a time when Friends of Irish
Freedom was attempting to develop fund-raising on
behalf of IRA prisoners and to proclaim that they were
the true inheritors of the republican standard.

By the time he returned to Belfast, Donaldson had
smoothed out the personal rivalries, made clear that
Noraid was the chosen group and helped dispatch the
Friends of Irish Freedom to history's dustbin. It was
a job well done.

By 1995, Irish-America was in need of Donaldson's
services again. The 1994 IRA ceasefire had transformed
the political landscape in the US and created an
entirely new group of dissidents, this time led by
Martin Galvin, who had severe doubts about the new
political path.

In the run-up to the ceasefire, Gerard McGuigan, a
Belfast native and elected councillor, had played a
major role in preparing the way in the US for the
Adams visa and then for the IRA ceasefire.

When the latter happened, the IRA's most famous ex-
soldier, veteran republican Joe Cahill, came to the US
to convince the faithful that the dream of Irish unity
would never die, despite the new tack.

It was a message Adams himself strongly repeated on
several visits.

But there was still major unrest. Donaldson addressed
the internal dissidents, making it clear that he spoke
for Sinn Féin and that he had the full power of the
organisation behind him. At a time when hotter heads
were calling for widespread expulsions, Donaldson held
his cool and slowly waited out the dissidents, chief
among them Galvin.

Donaldson and other Sinn Féin leaders made it clear
that Sinn Féin would not make Galvin a martyr and
expel him, and that he could make up his own mind.

The former Noraid chief eventually did, quitting the
organisation but failing to ignite a major opposition

Lacking a major figure to coalesce around, the Real
IRA movement in the US soon sputtered. One by one,
Donaldson dealt with the dissidents across the
country, getting many to stay onside and leaving
others with little choice but to step aside.

In 1996, Bernadette Sands, the sister of Bobby and the
wife of Real IRA commander Michael McKevitt, who had
led a split from the Provisionals, paid a visit to the
US and tried to gather support for her position that
the IRA ceasefire had betrayed Irish republicanism.

Her pleas fell on mostly deaf ears. Sinn Féin and
Donaldson had done their job well.

"There were known agents provocateurs in the ranks of
Noraid at the time and we figured we knew who they
were," said one senior republican source, "but the
notion that Donaldson was one never crossed our mind."

Donaldson, by everyone's account, did a good job
steadying the Sinn Féin ship in the US and smoothing
the path for the formation of a new organisation,
Friends of Sinn Féin, which now raises up to $1
million a year and has a far larger membership than
Noraid ever had.

That remains the essential dilemma. Although a self-
confessed British agent, Donaldson dampened down
dissension in the US, rather than causing it to flare
up, as the British surely wanted.

"No Sinn Féin representative would have done anything
different than Donaldson did," said a Sinn Féin source
in Ireland.

Like everything else about this puzzling affair, the
real motives of Donaldson may forever remain a secret.

The little man with the big smile and smooth talk has
turned the republican movement upside-down, and no one
in Irish-America knows quite what to make of it.

All further developments are anxiously awaited.


Opin: Outrageous Sabotage, But No-One Wants To Know

25 December 2005  By Vincent Browne

It might be the most significant story for decades:
the sabotage of institutions established under
constitutional arrangements voted for by more than 85
per cent of the people of Ireland.

It might not turn out to be quite so significant, but
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for one, thinks it is about as
big as it gets. Yet there has been almost no coverage
in the media here about the issue of possible

There has been lots of stuff about the possibility of
another mole within the republican movement and the
embarrassment the whole affair has caused that
movement. But whether these stories are true or not,
surely the glaringly outstanding issue is the question
of sabotage.

It is not at all implausible that Sinn Féin was
engaged in spying at Stormont - and indeed elsewhere.

Remember a Sinn Féin activist down here was caught
with details of politicians' living arrangements? What
is that if not spying, although some of the media
nowadays regard it as "investigative journalism''.

But just look at what happened in the so-called
Stormontgate affair. Television companies were tipped
off in time to enable them to film the dramatic
assault on the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont by hordes
of boiler-suited police. Once inside the Sinn Féin
offices, what did the police do?

Almost nothing.

Sinn Féin has over 20 offices at Stormont, and the
police ignored almost all of them. They took two disks
from a desk in one of the few offices they visited,
but they had to return these a few days later as they
were of no consequence. Then off they went.

All theatre. Not alone did the police not find
anything at Sinn Féin's offices in Stormont, but they
didn't even look for anything. Meanwhile, the cameras
continued to roll outside.

Then off went the police to where they came upon some
1,200 documents, all to do with conversations between
Tony Blair and George Bush, memos of meetings between
the British government and party leaders, documents of
security personnel. A fantastic haul. And where did
they 'find' these? In the home of their own agent and
informer, Denis Donaldson.

They found nothing else anywhere, aside from
information on a civil servant's laptop, which they
later discovered was on the computers of everyone else
in the section she worked in.

Suppose that, on October 4, 2002, the media had told
the world that these storm troopers had raided Sinn
Féin offices at Stormont but couldn't be bothered
visiting more than a few offices; that they found a
few disks that were entirely harmless; and that
nothing else was found of any consequence apart from a
haul of documents in the house of a British secret
service mole.

What would have been the reaction? I suspect it would
have been one of laughter and derision.

But because the public wasn't told this and because
politicians were led to believe this was some very big
deal - David Trimble said it was worse than Watergate
- it caused a major crisis, leading to the suspension
of the Northern power-sharing executive and the all-
Ireland institutions, all established by the mandate
of the people of the island of Ireland.

In the three years since then, there has been no hope
of restoring these institutions, that were all
constitutionally mandated, in part because of the
crisis generated that October.

Remember how we in the Republic changed our
Constitution to accommodate the institutions that were
swept away in that subterfuge of October 2002?
Remember how we changed Articles 2 and 3? Personally,
I couldn't care less about those, but the sabotage of
constitutionally-mandated institutions. . .

All this seems to be quite amazing, but even more
amazing is the media's indifference.

It is as though focusing on what the British and the
Northern Ireland Special Branch did, however heinous,
will give aid and comfort to the Provos - and we
cannot have that at any cost, not at the cost of
democracy, truth or fairness.

But the surprise doesn't end there.

Isn't it extraordinary that the one thing everyone now
seems agreed on is that there should be no inquiry
into the affair? Tánaiste Mary Harney said it was "the
last thing we need''.

Even allowing for her gormless phraseology, is it
really contended that the last thing we need to know
is how a constitutional arrangement for which most of
us voted was sabotaged by a fake security crisis?

The British government has failed to cooperate with
inquiries into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of
over 30 years ago, but could they refuse to institute
an inquiry into what was going on in relation to this

The only person I have heard calling for an inquiry is
Trimble - and well he might.

The government that he led as First Minister fell as a
result of this.

He lost the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party,
as a consequence of this and subsequent developments,
and his party has been trounced by the Democratic
Unionists, again partly as a consequence.

We have had inquiries to beat the band - and even the
banjo - over the last several years, so why not an
inquiry into this?

With a bit of luck, some tough-minded people in the
House of Commons might demand a parliamentary inquiry
and we might find out something.


Opin; Britain's Stormontgate Shambles

25 December 2005  By Brian Feeney

The British government and its administration in the
North have handled the whole Stormontgate fiasco in
the most ham-fisted fashion from the outset. On
December 8, the so-called 'Stormontgate Three' were
acquitted on charges of spying, and let's be clear
about it, they were acquitted by Belfast Crown Court,
not simply freed after charges were dropped.

The three accused had been hastily arraigned at an
unlisted court hearing while the North's media were
camped 15 miles away at Hillsborough covering the
historic meeting between President McAleese and Queen
Elizabeth II.

Somebody obviously thought it was a good day to bury
bad news. How wrong can you be?

Instead of leading on the meeting of the two heads of
state, the next day's newspapers, TV and radio were
full of outraged political reaction to the acquittal
and gave blanket coverage to the triumphant appearance
of the three newly acquitted men flanked by Gerry
Adams and other senior Sinn Féin figures at, where
else, Stormont, scene of the police raid that began
the whole saga in October 2002.

Since then the British have been on the back foot.
From that day they acted as if they had something to
hide, and they had.

Tony Blair, his northern secretary Peter Hain, the
Public Prosecution Service and the British Attorney
General all kept schtum about the reason for the
acquittal and the underhand court procedure. Was it
because they knew worse was to follow?

After a week of government stonewalling came the
sensational revelation that the man at the centre of
the spy ring allegations, Denis Donaldson, had been a
paid British agent for 20 years.

Suddenly it was clear why there could not have been a
successful prosecution.

The two-foot high pile of documents filched and
photocopied from Stormont and cited as irrefutable
evidence had been seized by police in the home of none
other than Denis Donaldson. Only one of 20-odd Sinn
Féin offices at Stormont was raided by police on that
fateful day in 2002 - Donaldson's. It was the only
office where police knew they would find NO
incriminating evidence because Donaldson had already
been arrested earlier that morning and the documents
seized from his home.

Furthermore, it had emerged in the course of remand
hearings that the PSNI had for months in 2002 been
conducting an operation code-named Torsion against the
IRA with the help of an agent in the republican
movement other than Donaldson. Torsion was a Special
Branch exercise to keep republicans under surveillance
as material was shifted from Stormont. Special Branch
permitted their agents and others to organise the
espionage in the hope of catching the IRA's director
of intelligence red-handed with the stolen documents.
They failed.

The end product of Operation Torsion was the collapse
of the power-sharing executive when the PSNI carried
out a wholly unnecessary raid on Stormont.

Wholly unnecessary because they knew they would find
nothing because they had already taken possession of
the stolen documents.

David Trimble, the UUP leader, had already declared -
in one of his tedious unilateral deadlines - that he
would walk out of the executive on January 18, 2003 if
the IRA didn't decommission.

After the dramatic police raid on Stormont to 'expose'
the IRA spy ring Trimble had no alternative but to
walk out three months early, vindicated by the alleged
IRA plot. How very convenient.

In the event, the collapse of the executive led to the
collapse of Trimble's party, trounced in the 2003 and
2005 elections by Ian Paisley's DUP which opposes the
Good Friday Agreement and whose members even now still
don't speak to Sinn Féin. The unionist electorate
blamed Trimble for going into an administration with
the devious republicans in the first place.

This whole sorry tale raises a series of important
questions. At its core is the question of the
relationship in the North between policing and
security on the one hand and politics on the other.
Which has primacy? Since the 1989 Security Services
Act, the Director and Coordinator of Intelligence
(DCI) at Stormont has had a seat on theMI5 board and
is responsible to Britain's northern secretary.

Among other objectives of the 1989 act was an attempt
to coordinate the various competing intelligence
organisations in the North: RUC Special Branch, MI5,
military intelligence,14th Intelligence Company and
other shadowy groupings.

So the northern secretary in 2002 ought at least to
have known that there was no prospect of a successful
prosecution since one of the accused was a British
agent who would hardly go to jail to please his

Was the then northern secretary therefore consulted
about the operations that led to the collapse of the
Good Friday institutions? Was the DCI consulted? If
not, why not? A child could have predicted the
consequences. As it was, the then northern secretary,
John Reid, was removed three weeks after the Stormont
raid to be Minister without Portfolio and Labour
chairman. When parliament resumed it was a new
northern secretary, Paul Murphy, replying for the

Why did it take three years for the truth about
Donaldson to emerge? Has the truth emerged? To what
extent was he an agent provocateur used by the
security services to hand Sinn Féin doctored
documents? Was he used to try to direct Sinn Féin's
political agenda by supplying material the British
wanted Sinn Féin to read? Was the northern secretary
privy to these activities and did he sanction this
espionage on a political party? Or, was it the case,
as many suspect, that the security services kept these
'operational' details to themselves and continued
their meddling in the political process unknown to
their political masters? No northern politician knows.

As far as is known, Special Branch had no contact with
Donaldson from two days before his arrest in 2002
until they warned him a fortnight ago that he was
going to be exposed as an informer. Had he served his
purpose by October 2002 or December 2005? Had he
served his British paymasters unsatisfactorily by
October 2002 and had they decided to dispense with his
services? No Northern politician knows.

What can be deduced from this murky episode is that
there is precious little evidence of the primacy of
politics at work in the British administration in the
North. Would any northern secretary, had he known,
have allowed an executive that the Taoiseach and Tony
Blair had striven mightily to construct, to be
demolished by a PSNI operation that could never have
borne fruit because a British agent lay at its core?

There doesn't have to be a sinister group within the
security services intent on subverting the political
objectives of Blair. On the contrary, the evidence
points to a frantic political mopping-up operation
following a botched Special Branch plot to ensnare a
key IRA figure.

What is missing from the whole imbroglio is any sign
of clear or competent political direction. Instead,
the northern secretary, Peter Hain, seems to find it
difficult to keep his head above water as one leak
after another sets back the prospect of restoring
political institutions.

It's true that there was never a good time to reveal
that Donaldson was a British agent. Surely though, if
the northern secretary really has primacy over
security, it is preferable for him to take the
initiative and explain why the Stormontgate case
collapsed rather than leave Sinn Féin's version to
carry the day and allow conspiracy theories to
frighten unionists out of the political arena?

Brian Feeney is the author of Sinn Féin: A Hundred
Turbulent Years.


Opin: Democracy Undermined By Securocrats' Meddling

25 December 2005  By Tom McGurk

On St Patrick's Day 2002, hundreds of files on police
informers and the codenames of scores of Special
Branch officers were stolen from the headquarters of
the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI)
Special Branch at Castlereagh Police Station.

The authorities were astonished that the raid had
occurred in a security complex that was among the most
heavily guarded places in the North. Access to the
complex was carefully controlled and vetted.

The immediate result of the raid was that more than
100 PSNI officers were forced to move home at a cost
of millions of pounds to taxpayers. Large numbers of
police informers who suspected that their details had
been uncovered also quietly fled their homes.

At the time, the IRA was blamed for the raid, but it
denied involvement. Sinn Féin claimed it had been
organised by rogue elements in the security forces who
wanted to collapse the Northern Assembly and end the
party's role in government.

And it nearly did. But it has now emerged that the
PSNI's chief suspect in the case, a New York-born chef
named Larry Zaitschek, was a close contact of former
senior Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson, who was
recently unmasked as a British agent.

In the mid-1990s, Donaldson was working for Sinn Féin
in the US and befriended Zaitschek whose now-estranged
wife came from Belfast. Zaitschek later came to live
in Belfast with his wife and got a job as a chef at

After the robbery, Zaitschek suddenly disappeared back
to the US. The PSNI has indicated that he will be
arrested if he returns to the North; however, no
extradition proceedings have yet been issued.

Seven months later, in October 2002, the PSNI raid on
the Stormontgate 'spy ring' finally resulted in the
collapse of the Assembly and power-sharing. On that
day, even though Sinn Féin had more than 20 offices at
Stormont, only Donaldson's office was raided by the

With Donaldson's cover now finally blown, the
Castlereagh files robbery clearly requires some

For a start, how could Zaitschek get such a job, given
the security clearance required to work in the nerve
centre of police intelligence and his links with
Donaldson and Sinn Féin?

Were Donaldson's handlers alerted to Zaitschek's
links? And if they were aware of his links, could it
be that Donaldson and Zaitschek were only bit players
in a raid on Castlereagh initiated by Donaldson's own

And if these handlers were members of the PSNI's
Special Branch, why were they raiding their own
offices? Even worse, if Donaldson's handlers were MI5
agents, why were they organising a raid on the PSNI's
Special Branch files?

No files have subsequently turned up, nor has anyone
ever been charged with the theft. One wonders where
they are now?

For what it's worth, Donaldson has now said that there
was no spy ring at Stormont and that it was all a
Special Branch fit-up.

What has emerged, however, is a credible explanation
for the refusal of the North's Public Prosecution
Service to continue with the trial of Donaldson and
his two co-accused in connection with the raid.

The British authorities may have been concerned that
Donaldson was going to break his cover at the trial
and reveal what he knew about the raid, while
simultaneously denying the existence of the Stormont
spy ring.

There has been considerable evidence that, since the
peace process began, relations between the old RUC's
Special Branch and British intelligence services have
approached something akin to open warfare.

Had Donaldson used his trial to break his cover and
open up this vista, the implications would have been

Historically, many Special Branch officers have been
bitterly opposed to any peace process with their
Republican enemies. Some even felt that they would be
prosecuted at a later stage for their activities
during the Troubles.

Others found the ongoing investigations into matters
such as the Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson murders
and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings deeply unsettling.

Apparently, some fear prosecution so much that they
have relocated to Spain, which has complex extradition

Was this the reason for the British government's
sudden addition to its recent 'on the runs'
legislation, which granted an amnesty to the security

But above all, the winding-up of the RUC and the early
retirement of many Branch members, left large numbers
of them deeply embittered.

Given the extraordinary nature of recent events, is it
too fantastic to consider the Castlereagh raid and
Stormontgate as evidence of a private feud within the
British security forces? Was Castlereagh actually
about embarrassing the Special Branch and was
Stormontgate the Branch's revenge?

Nobody can know for certain but yet again, the whole
farrago raises the old question about political
control - or lack of it - over British security and
intelligence forces. For Dublin, these matters are
very grave. How on earth can anyone conduct serious
political business with a government that is either
deeply duplicitous or, even worse, doesn't know what
its 'political' police are doing?

When the Stormontgate trial collapsed, the Taoiseach
understandably said that he had no idea what was going
on and neither, I suspect, do many of us.

But there is one thing going on that we all recognise
and that is that, once again - as with the collapse of
power-sharing back in 1974 – the North's political
future is being guided by agencies that are neither
political nor democratically elected.

That is simply unacceptable and London needs to be
publicly told so.


The Irishmen Behind UN Reform

25 December 2005

More than 750 Irish soldiers and officers will spend
this Christmas away from their families in remote
locations around the world.

The largest contingent of 638 soldiers will be in
Liberia and Kosovo. The rest are stationed in military
posts in Afghanistan, Western Sahara, DR Congo, Sudan,
Aceh, the Middle East and the Ivory Coast. A smaller
number work in Europe and New York.

Most of the 768 members of the Defence Forces
currently overseas are serving with the United Nations
(UN) or on UN-mandated missions.

"Few Irish people are aware of the overseas missions
our troops are currently on," said Lieutenant General
Jim Sreenan, chief of staff of the Defence Forces.

"Christmas can be a lonely time for those stationed in
isolated outposts in areas like Kabul, Sudan, the
Balkans, Liberia, the Congo and the Ivory Coast."

Since the first Irish peacekeeping mission to Lebanon
in 1958, Irish soldiers have performed more than
54,000 tours of duty in 58 locations worldwide.

"Missions are always dangerous," said Sreenan. "Some
85 Irish soldiers have died serving under the blue
[UN] flag.

"Missions are also changing.

"They're becoming tougher.

"We were initially deployed to largely military
operations, but peacekeeping has evolved into complex
multi-divisional or cross-pillar operations.

Troops have to work alongside security forces and
humanitarian agencies," he said.

"Irish peacekeepers are in high demand because they
are fully trained for a full spectrum of operations,
they're motivated and they bring with them a sense of
decency, compassion and fair play.

"They also have a full understanding of human rights
and democracy, and must practise and live by those

A testament to the capability of Irish forces is that
the army has provided the UN with three commanders:
Lieutenant General Sean McKeown in the Congo in 1961,
Major General James Quinn in Cyprus in 1972, and
Lieutenant General Bill Callaghan in the Lebanon
between 1981 and 1986.

Irish diplomats have also played a central role in the
UN. The Republic has served on the UN Security Council
three times since joining the organisation 50 years

The council is made up of 15 members - five (Britain,
China, France, Russia, and the United States)
permanent members and ten non-permanent members
elected by the UN's 191 member states to serve for a
two-year term. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has
pushed to make human rights an intrinsic part of
peacekeeping missions and nominated former Irish
president Mary Robinson as UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, a position she held from 1997 to 2002.

Behind the scenes at UN headquarters in New York,
Irishman Corporal Fergus Bushell heads the military
liaison office between the EU and the UN, a position
he won following a recent EU-wide defence force
competition. His compatriot, Colonel Colm Doyle, was
appointed last year to head the UN department
developing a peacekeeping doctrine.

The peacekeeping doctrine is part of the UN's current
reform drive and will empower UN forces to use force,
not only to defend themselves, but also to defend
their mandate and to protect local communities. That
evolution is intended to help prevent determined
genocidal efforts.

"In some conflict situations, the mere presence of UN
troops is enough of a deterrent," said Sreenan. "In
more violent situations, the people troops encounter
can be mean and dangerous. Peacekeepers have to be
trained, skilled soldiers prepared for any
eventuality. In today's world, that includes preparing
for and preventing acts of terrorism and genocide."

The preservation of global security has not always
been successful and successes don't readily make

The global eradication of polio, the prevention of
famine in Somalia, the establishment of stability and
security in areas such as Kosovo, Bosnia and East
Timor, and the current reintegration of soldiers -
particularly boy soldiers - into Liberian society
seldom get much attention. The UN has suffered
embarrassing mission failures in the past, including
its failed attempts to prevent genocide and ethnic
cleansing in Rwanda and Bosnia.

The UN was too slow to deploy troops to Rwanda - and
too ill-equipped when it finally did - to save some
two million people from slaughter in 1994.

Similarly, it turned down requests for help from
Bosnia in 1992 because there was no precedent for
"pre-emptive'' peacekeeping.

Troops were eventually deployed, but too late to stop
the murders of half a million civilians. However, the
organisation isn't fully to blame for these failures,
if one considers the member states that make up the
body. In many instances, it has been the national
self-interest of member states that has either led to
conflict or impeded intervention. The problems
associated with Europe's colonial carve-up of Africa
still haunt the continent today.

The decision by Britain and the US, two of the
Security Council's permanent veto-holding members, to
invade Iraq in 2003 may spawn a new set of headaches
for the UN in the future.

If and when Iraq is stabilised, the body could find
itself sustaining yet another dysfunctional society,
without solving its inherent factional problems. The
UN is not a sovereign body, and intervention requires
the general consensus of member states, which is often
protracted and complex.

In addition, the organisation has been crippled by its
veto-holding members, who no longer represent a
balance of global power.

Reform is crucial if the UN is to restore
international credibility and survive another 60
years. The problem is getting member states to agree
on reforms - and to do so without descending into

Part of the reforms the body is desperate to initiate
include setting up a peace-building commission to help
with post-conflict reconstruction. Ireland pledged a
€10 million contribution to fund the advisory body's
establishment last week.

Expanding the 15-member Security Council to about 25
members is another requirement, although this has been
shelved until next year. Reform of UN bureaucracy is
also needed.

The organisation also wants to create a human rights
council and define terrorism. Trying to bring about
radical reform has always been a frustrating ambition
within the UN. But the existence of conflicts
throughout the world suggests that there is no end of
work for the body.


Opin: What Was Really Important Beyond 'Punch-And-Judy' Politics

25 December 2005  By Pat Leahy

When Irish historians remember the year 2005, the
IRA's decision to decommission its arms and retire for
good will surely be the most significant event.

What other event stands beside it for political and
historic significance? The Meath and Kildare by-
elections? Michael McDowell's continual attacks on
Sinn Féin and other characters he considers
suspicious? Martin Cullen's travails? The resignation
of junior minister Ivor Callely? Eddie Hobbs' Rip-Off
Republic? Hardly. Most of these will be quickly

And yet the IRA's move has generated scarcely a ripple
among the public. It's one of the great paradoxes of
Irish political life that an issue which consumes so
much time and intellectual effort at the highest
levels of government is one that voters don't appear
to get worked up about, especially as the Good Friday
Agreement recedes into history.

Ask any group of voters - either focus groups or
larger opinion polls - what are the issues that
concern them. Most of the time, you'll get the same
answers - health, crime, the economy and, lately,
value for money. But hardly anyone ever mentions the

The republican movement's early-year purgatory over
the Northern Bank raid and the murder of Robert
McCartney threw the peace process into crisis and
dominated the national debate for months. It dominated
politics, yet it didn't appear to have any lasting
impact on voters.

This divergence between political debate and the
everyday concerns of people is a growing feature of
Irish politics, and was evident throughout the year.
Political crises come and go, generating much sound
and fury, but have little lasting effect on politics
as perceived by voters.

So the best way to look at what was significant during
the year is to go beyond what new Tory leader David
Cameron called "Punch and Judy politics'', and see
what really affected our politics at a deeper level.
So when voters get their childcare payments, social
welfare cheques and wage slips in 2006, will they
really be thinking that the budget was a disaster for
the government because Ivor Callely was fired on the
same day?

It's often about trying to see the difference between
the latest political row and actual substance.
Because, ultimately, it's the voters who decide what
matters. So what did really matter this year?

Sinn Féin surge abates

First, back to the North and Sinn Féin. This year saw
the end - at least for now - of the rise in Sinn
Féin's electoral support.

A succession of opinion polls published in this and
other newspapers confirmed that roughly half the
voters were quite hostile to Sinn Féin. Then there's
about 40 per cent who are softer and willing to listen
to what the party is saying - peace processors, if you

And then the party has a lock on about 10 per cent of
the electorate.

This section was more or less unaffected by the storm
over the Northern Bank raid and the McCartney murder -
but was also unaffected (in the other direction) by
the IRA's retirement and decommissioning.

This levelling out of Sinn Féin's support may turn out
to have been one of the more significant developments
on the domestic political stage during 2005. Since the
peace process took on a tangible form with the
ceasefires of the mid-1990s, Sinn Féin has steadily
increased its public support: 2.6 per cent in the 1997
general election; 3.5 per cent in the 1999 locals; 7
per cent in the 2002 general election; 8 per cent in
the 2004 locals; and 11 per cent in last year's
European elections.

This seemingly inexorable rise conferred on Sinn Féin
that most valuable of political assets - momentum. It
also had the effect of terrifying the living daylights
out of the party's competitors, Fianna Fáil and
Labour, in working class areas, especially in Dublin.

The warnings of a vocal band of hyperventilating anti-
Sinn Féin commentators were reaching an apocalyptic
pitch, and it was widely assumed that Sinn Féin's
assumption of the third-place slot and participation
in government was imminent and inevitable.

Then, during the past year, the onward march of Sinn
Féin's polling numbers slowed and then halted. It's a
10 per cent party, certainly, and will gain seats at
the next election at that level, but the party's
rivals are not as scared as they used to be. There
were other significant polling movements during the
year, but it's important to realise what polls aren't,
as much as what they are. Polls aren't a crystal ball
that enable us to see, Mystic Meg-like, the result of
an election in 18 months' time.

Instead, they describe the existing landscape
accurately. Over a period of time, this enables us to
see trends, extrapolate likely movements and make
certain observations. So what were the movements in
political support during 2005?

Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil shuffle

In general terms, Fine Gael stole the momentum from
Fianna Fáil.

In 2004, Bertie Ahern responded to his caning at the
hands of the voters by dumping Charlie McCreevy,
rebranding his government as "socially caring'' and
tacking to the left. Fr Sean Healy, champion of the
poor and a director of the justice commission of the
Conference of the Religious in Ireland, was welcomed -
through gritted teeth in the case of many ministers
and backbenchers - to Inchydoney.

Brian Cowen's first budget, which was heavily slanted
towards lower earners and those on social welfare,
completed the picture.

It's not certain, of course, that these events
directly caused the increase in support for Fianna
Fáil shown by the polls in the early part of this
year. But the poll surge certainly followed the
socialist conversion and many around the Taoiseach
hold the post hoc ergo propter hoc view - that because
the increase in support happened after the rebranding,
it happened because of the rebranding.

By March of this year, various polls were measuring a
dramatic recovery in support for Fianna Fáil, with
Fine Gael languishing and Labour becalmed only
slightly above their general election level of 11 per

"Fianna Fáil recovers as opposition gains come up
short," said The Sunday Business Post. The Irish
Independent was characteristically bullish: "Coalition
is powering to a third term," the newspaper blasted on
page one. Then a funny thing happened. The government
tripped over in two by-elections in Meath and Kildare,
one providing a badly-needed boost to Enda Kenny and
the other confirming the Irish voting public's
enduring attachment to independent candidates.

As spring turned into summer, the constant drip of bad
news from government - nursing home charges, chaos in
accident and emergency wards, Celia Larkin turning up
on a state board - chipped away at government support.
Then, in August, came the single biggest political
media event of the year: Eddie Hobbs' Rip Off Republic
television programmes.

The power of 'Hobbsvision'

Chirpy Corkman Eddie Hobbs lambasted the "rip-off''
culture of modern Ireland, drawing huge audiences and
blanket, adoring coverage throughout the media.

Never mind that popular perceptions of steeply rising
grocery prices were simply wrong - one survey showed
that while people believed that grocery prices had
increased by 32 per cent between 2002-2004, they had
actually risen by just 6 per cent - Hobbs tuned
directly into public dissatisfaction on the issue. He
triggered a kind of tipping point.

Showing its ability to make the worst of a bad
situation, Fianna Fáil lashed out at Hobbs. The party
might as well have criticised Santa Claus.

A series of opinion polls in the autumn and again at
the start of December confirmed that support for the
government and for Fianna Fáil had plummeted. The
research was clear about why: 90 per cent of
respondents in a poll told The Sunday Business Post
that "rip-off Ireland'' was a reality; three-quarters
of them blamed the government.

Irish people are more demanding than ever, it seems:
the richer the country gets, the more they expect. The
growth of this "affluent grumpiness'' was one of the
most striking features of this year. In contrast to
Fianna Fáil's plummeting fortunes, Fine Gael was the
biggest beneficiary of this mood - gaining the sort of
support levels (27-28 per cent) that delivered its
brilliant local and European election results in 2004,
and which had not been seen by the party at a general
election since it won 54 seats in 1997.

Party handlers were cock-a-hoop, especially when a
close examination of the polling numbers revealed
that, among those voters who say they are absolutely
certain to vote, the party was almost as popular as
Fianna Fáil.

Good media, effective attacks and government
unpopularity have put Fine Gael into a position where
it can realistically expect to challenge Fianna Fáil
for the leadership of the next government.

But the party has yet to show that it can maintain a
lock on this support. It hasn't produced a strong
policy platform and its leader is not bringing people
to his party.

The great worry for Fine Gael will be that, if Fianna
Fáil could stage a recovery in early 2005 on the back
of generous budget and high consumer confidence, then
it could do the same next year.

In other words, they fret that mid-term unpopularity
for the government is one thing, but when it comes to
an election what if it is the economy - and only the
economy - stupid?

Nonetheless, 2005 was a good year for Fine Gael,
following an equally good 2004. Setting out in 2002,
Fine Gael's leader Enda Kenny and the impressive
backroom team he has assembled would be pleased with
having got this far by the start of 2006. A lot done,
and so forth.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte's supporters say his glass
is half full, while his opponents say it's half empty.
Rabbitte was undoubtedly strengthened by a
comprehensive internal victory at his party conference
in May, endorsing his "anti-Fianna Fáil'' strategy for
the next general election.

In reality, however, a defeat would have spelled the
end of his leadership, and nobody in the party had the
stomach for that.

It's arguable that Rabbitte's strategy to promote an
alliance with Fine Gael has principally benefited Fine
Gael; Labour handlers have said that the alternative
government is making important strides forward.

Rabbitte and Kenny's great achievement so far has been
to ensure that, come the next election, there will be
a clear alternative to a Fianna Fáil-led government.
But it's also clear that, at the moment, not enough of
the public are convinced that the alternative is

However, nowhere near enough people are prepared to
endorse Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats for
a third term. Indeed, on current numbers, Fianna Fáil
would have a disastrous election and Labour would have
a mediocre result - and both would end up in
government together, such are the vagaries of a
proportional representation system.

What next?

So how will the numbers look this time next year?

A lot of political activity in 2006 will take place
below the radar of the media and the public.
Constituency matters have to be sorted out, and
candidates finalised.

There's always a lot of colour in this aspect of
electoral preparations, and certain questions stand
out - how will the Taoiseach address the threat of
Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin Central? Will Michael D
Higgins give it one more lash in Galway West? This
work has to be finished in the next few months.

Parties will also spend a lot of time and money in the
coming months designing their general election
campaigns - researching, polling, testing slogans, key
tactics, and tweaking the general strategy.

Already the general outline of the two major blocs is
clear: "change, not more of the same'' versus "it's
the economy, stupid''.

Politics in a time of plenty is a subtle art. The
Taoiseach observes - okay, complains - frequently that
he is the envy of his European counterparts, but can't
get a break at home.

Even last week, a Eurobarometer poll showed that Irish
people were the happiest in Europe. But we certainly
like to keep our politicians on their toes.

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